Why do some women tolerate jerks as boyfriends?

What causes Christian women to pass on strong, capable Christian men and to choose weaker non-Christian men instead?

Fears of rejection

On the one hand, most women want men to provide them with good things, to love them, to treat them honorably and to lead them. But on the other hand, they fear abandonment and rejection. Sometimes this fear of abandonment and rejection is so strong that it causes them to pass on men who they think are “too good for them”. A good man may seem unattainable to a woman who has not put in the same amount of effort to prepare for him.

Fear of moral obligations

Sometimes a really good man places moral and spiritual obligations on a Christian woman that require her to improve and grow, in order to help him with his life plan. Also, men flourish when a woman encourages him, recognizes him, supports him in his male roles. A good man who has definite ideas on what counts as good behavior may expect more from a woman, and those moral obligations can get in the way of her selfish pursuit of happiness.

Strong, good men are avoided

So it turns out that the fear of rejection or abandonment can be STRONGER when the man is good at his Biblical roles, because she feels like she doesn’t measure up and will have to work hard to keep him. And the expectation to fulfill moral obligations can be STRONGER when the man has a well-developed sense of morality, because he actually knows how women are supposed to act and he may hold the woman accountable.

Weak men are easier to blame and control

Let me explain some other reasons why a Christian woman might prefer to have a weaker, non-Christian man:

  1. A woman may prefer to blame a man in order to rationalize her selfish actions, and an immoral man is easier to blame.
  2. A woman may prefer to blame a man in order to punish him for some real or imagined crime, and an immoral man is easier to blame.
  3. A woman may want to avoid moral obligations to a man, and a weaker man is easier for her to control. (e.g. – using pre-marital sex in order to avoid having to love a man self-sacrificially)
  4. A woman may need to avoid being judged or led morally by a man, so she prefers a man who is weak at morality and moral reasoning.
  5. A woman may need to avoid being judged or led spiritually by a man, so she prefers a man who is weak at theology and apologetics.

So, it’s not that the poor, sweet, innocent women are helpless victims of nasty, evil, brutish man-beasts, at all. Far from it. Some of them DELIBERATELY CHOOSE to pass up the best Biblical Christian men, because they fear rejection or moral judgment or loss of control, and/or they want to avoid moral obligations to men that may interfere with their selfishness.


I just want to reiterate before anyone freaks out that I know a LOT of Christian women who are heroic at letting Christianity influence their choice of romantic partners. Actually, I know women who are MORE courageous than I am in resisting bad partners. And it’s harder for a woman to do because women have concerns about the future, and so on. The choice to be faithful to God, to be chaste and to choose a godly man is nothing less than an act of incredible heroism. I wish more women did that. It is really amazing and admirable when women hold out for a good man, then answer his call to step up into the role that he needs her to play to help him with his plan to serve God effectively.

I actually know more of the good kind than the bad kind, especially since I started writing and the good ones just showed up! Pow! There you all are! Where had you all been hiding?

21 thoughts on “Why do some women tolerate jerks as boyfriends?”

  1. Hubris Alert! EMO bells are ringing.

    Definition of Jerk: Whoever is currently going out with whomever Wintery fancies.

    Everything you’ve written could be as true and pure as freshly driven snow, but to some readers, you are going to come across as bitter.


    1. Hey, this has nothing to do with me! What set me off on this was an article someone had left in a comment talking about the problem of jerk selection as if women were somehow innocent victims of their own bad decisions.

      The young lady I fancy isn’t going out with anyone right now.

      I know you expect me to be this alpha male who has no feelings and just disregards women who make bad decisions, but if you spend enough time talking to them you do get attached to them in a father-daughter way. It’s sad. Like seeing a bird in a pet store who is pulling out her own feathers because of some stress or other. I’m much too clever to marry someone who is still in a non-marriageable state. Just because I have feelings, it doesn’t mean that I suddenly lost all strength in my Biblical roles.

      My Biblical role is to be a provider, a protector and a moral/spiritual leader. In some of those categories, I am in the first rank. I have strength where I am supposed to have strength. I’ve made excellent decisions in financial, moral and spiritual areas. Now, I don’t see how telling bad women the truth about how they ought to be makes me weak. My strength is that I don’t try to 1) use them for sex and throw them away, and 2) allow them to manipulate me for attention by using sex, and 3) commit to them without insisting on seeing evidence that they are changing.

      I don’t really NEED anything from women in order to do my job. I’ve been doing it just fine for the last 20 years.

      I am not sure if I can fit into the way that people measure men today. I have strengths where I am supposed to. I’m not sure that I am not supposed to feel compassion for others.


  2. I think you’re forgetting a big one here: Low self worth on the woman’s part. That’s certainly been my observation of the women I know who have picked terrible men for partners. A woman who thinks she’s worthy of being treated well and having a healthy relationship would never put up with baloney, but a woman with a poor self image will take what she can get.



    1. Thanks for your comment Erica. I wish that the ones with bad self-worth were more responsive to being built up. I am willing to do that, but I can’t do it FOR THEM. It’s something they have to be willing to do themselves.


      1. Of course. I agree with that totally. The miracle of marriage is taking two whole people and with God’s blessing making them one. If both people aren’t whole to start with, it doesn’t happen correctly without a lot of healing and drama.

        I don’t know you too well so I don’t know why you call yourself Wintery Knight, but the reality is, a damsel in distress does not make the best partner for a strong, good man. A damsel in distress is too needy and will drag him down from his true mission. In my opinion, the best partner for a good, strong man is a good, strong woman who happens to be heading the same direction.

        I know part of the reason my now-husband was attracted to me was because I was out there making a good life for myself. I was educated, had a cool job in Japan, I was active in my church, and I was generally happy. A healthy woman should be more attractive to a healthy man, just as a healthy woman has no interest in a “bad boy” abusive type. If a man feels the need to rescue his woman constantly, to me that’s a bad sign.


        1. Well, the Wintery Knight name refers to the darkness and loneliness that comes from the realization that many Christian women today do not want men who are good at morality and apologetics. It’s based on my experiences in churches, campus groups (IVCF, CCFC), etc., where I could see that Christian women were more interested in fun than in choosing a man who has a good plan to serve the Lord effectively. So I had to make a decision to either compromise in order to appeal to women as they are (armor comes off, sword is put down), or to disregard women as they are and do my duty (armor stays on, sword stays in hand). I chose the latter. It has not been easy.

          I agree with you on the damsels thing… the damsels I choose (disregarding the selfish damsel who had a LONG way to go before I was willing to be married to her anyway) are always virgins who are politically conservative and into theology and apologetics. And their distress has nothing to do with their own hedonism or selfishness, and more to do with not getting any emotional support from Christian men so they can do good things like they want to. A typical request I hear from the good damsels is that they want to learn more about economics or apologetics, but they need guidance and support. I can do that.


          1. I see. I have to say I find this a bit surprising, since statistically there are many more Christian women available than Christian men. This is due partly to the feminization of the church, etc., as you know.

            When I was single, I was a bit intimidated simply because of the numbers. At all the churches I attended as a single woman, there were very few single men and many single women. And in the end, I didn’t find my husband in church, I found him on the internet.

            I still have lots of single girlfriends who are wonderful women of God, smart, educated, pretty and friendly who don’t have a man simply because all the Christian men they know are already married. I would think a guy like you would be able to take your pick. In fact, that’s what a lot of single Christian women complain about, that the few Christian guys they know only go for the skinny bombshell types and they can’t compete for the few Christian men out there.

            Actually, that seems to be another thing you can put on your list. There are simply too few Christian men available and some women will choose a man who is available because they want to have a partner, a marriage, a family, even if they know it isn’t God’s ideal for them to choose a non-Christian. This is asking for trouble in my opinion, but it’s easy for me to say because I’ve been happily married almost 5 years. I don’t know how I’d feel if I were 30 and single, with no single Christian men around.


          2. Thanks Erica.

            Well, the problem is that I have additional things that I require from a woman who claims to be a Christian. Just saying that she is and showing up in church is like question 1 on a 30 page questionnaire.

            For example, I was in grad school and I joined Campus Crusade For Christ and met this amazing young woman who was an undergraduate. She grew up on a farm, she was incredibly pretty, and she was studying science with a minor in philosophy. So naturally, I was very impressed. So I tried to speak to her about apologetics, and she was totally totally clueless about it, not to mention politics and economics, etc. Well, I said to her “have you ever noticed in any of your classes that the teachers say things about what science has shown that are incompatible with your Christian faith”. And she replied, “of course not since science and faith are two separate things”. So I offered her an audio lecture by Scott Waller, an expert at Campus Crusade, who explained postmodernism/relativism and scientism in the context of Christian students going off to college. She sat on the lecture (a 90 minute lecture) for a month and then returned it to me without having listened to it.

            And yet this woman was considered to be an ideal Christian woman. And nothing that Crusade did in FOUR YEARS ever shook her from that, because the campus clubs never focused on truth, but instead on emotional needs.

            So… my point is that not everyone who claims to be a Christian woman is.

            Now having said that, I am just discouraged, I think, when I look at the kind of laws that are on the books, and what my taxpayer dollars are going for. Unless I meet a woman who is as concerned and thoughtful about these problems as I am, I’m just not going to bother looking really hard. It’s not a big imperative for me – I am actually quite fearful of having my plans squashed by a closet feminist and the feminist state. My plans would be crushed if someone I lived with did not understand or support me. I don’t want to be someone’s accessory. But that would require her to study these issues and to be able to listen to me and help me to find solutions. I don’t want to be alone in a marriage, explaining to God why I am failing to produce.


  3. I’m sorry you’re lonely. :(

    However, I don’t think it’s fair to imply that this woman you met is not a Christian. Misguided and not properly educated in the faith? Sure. Should more be expected than simply going to church and Campus Crusade? Of course. And if she wasn’t interested in becoming a more educated Christian and she wasn’t interested in the same things you are, I can see how she was no longer attractive to you. The male version of that would not be an option for me, either. But unless you left something out, I’m not seeing that she’s not a Christian.

    People have different interests and some people (Christian or not) are flat out smarter or dumber than others. I feel your pain there, since I can tell you’re very intelligent. As a reference, I graduated college summa cum laude and I’m fluent in three languages and can read a few others. I outdid most of the people in all of my classes, men and women. I’m also very conservative and wouldn’t be able to marry someone I’d constantly debate on things that are important to me. So I get that.

    I once offended my wonderful Christian grandma when I said I wanted a man who I thought was at least as smart as I am. She replied that the most important thing is that he follow the Lord. Of course this is true, but since I believe in traditional values, I wanted a man I would feel confident following and trusting, and for me intelligence is part of that. Fortunately I’ve been blessed with that kind of man. :)

    I don’t have all the answers for you, but I pray you will find the right woman for you in God’s timing. In my experience, God is always on time but rarely early. There are other women out there who care about the same things you do. I may be unusual for a woman, but I can’t be a completely unique specimen. :)


      1. Exactly. There have to be others out there. I didn’t find my man in church or at college. We met on eharmony, which is still a tiny bit embarrassing to admit, but it’s the truth.

        What helped me there was that I was able to put all kinds of things on my page, such as the fact that I liked Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and that I believe in biblical Christianity and that I was a virgin and staying that way till marriage. I’m sure a lot of guys saw that (especially the last one) and crossed me off their list instantly. But those were the guys I didn’t want, so it saved us both time. :)

        If a guy responded to me there, I knew that what I said about myself was acceptable to him, and then I was able to size him up by his writing style and ability. Not surprisingly, my husband is an excellent writer.

        Be encouraged. There have to be other women like me out there. I like to think I’m special but I can’t be that unique. ;) Actually most if not all of the single lady friends I have are interested in apologetics at least a little, because several of them are very active in campus ministries where they meet a lot of people questioning Christianity.

        Not everyone participates in campus ministries to be fed emotionally. A lot of my friends are there to show Christ’s love to others in the hope that they will also come to Christ, and you have to be a little deeper if that’s your goal.


  4. I think that the reason many women choose ‘jerks’ for boyfriends is related to the definition of strong, above. Though we may think that men who are Christians are strong, women are instinctively drawn, due to physiological reasons, to dominant men. Unless a woman is willing to see her possible partner choices through the lens of Christ, then she will tend toward dominant men. Also, unfortunately, many aspects of the church have been feminized, and even the terms we use make this clear, such as when we say that it is best to be ‘meek.’ To a guy, that means weakness, and to a gal, well, that’s probably not very masculine. And we don’t tend to qualify this by anything masculine. For this reason, many more women than men come to church, since masculine aspects are downplayed. This is a broad generalization, of course.

    I’d also note that we shouldn’t expect the majority of women to be interested in apologetics. I think it’s good to know, and I love it, though one can be a perfectly good Christian without it (think ‘properly basic belief’ a la Plantinga). I think what I need, and you need, is someone who would choose to be interested in our interests, just because that’s what we’re interested in. This was brought home to me when you had a post to a talk by William Lane Craig to the faculty leadership council on how to choose a mate.

    Last, I wonder if you have read the essay ‘The Masculinization of the World’ by Steven Goldberg in Fads and Fallacies in the Social Sciences. It truly opened my eyes to the current state of male/female relations in our culture, and the underlying choices that women and men make. I can email it, and I’d post it at my website except that I’d get in trouble since I work in academia, since it’s not pc.


    1. Thanks for this excellent comment.

      Yes, I think that women should be interested in apologetics once they see what it can be used for… although I can’t imagine how a woman can get to a marriageable age and not ever have been challenged on her beliefs. Men learn apologetics because they have to or they lose arguments and God looks bad. Don’t women worry about how God will look in public if they don’t prepare answers?

      Please e-mail me something about that essay, because your last tip got us linked by Ruth Blog, Red State and Robert Stacy McCain. I even got blogrolled at The Other McCain! See why I was so excited?


  5. I would guestimate that many of the reasons women tolerate jerks are based on low self esteem, not knowing better, and/or having been raised in an environment where they internalized negative relationship patterns. I’m not saying women are never at fault or are never of weak moral character. I just think the reasons you listed only show women’s motivations to be selfish and immature. Whereas, I think, in a group of women tolerating jerks as boyfriends, a significant number of reasons are not the reasons you listed, but rather the other reasons I listed.


  6. Reading again, I’m sorry. You are dead on right about reasons some women may deliberately choose to pass up good, morally upright men.


  7. I was so irritated at this article because I am finding that strong, good looking, humble, desiring Christ above all, Christian men are few and far between. They are weak. The church is doing a poor job making them accountable. I am on several dating sites, am attractive, and seek God first. I cry on my knees weekly and ask God why? Why are there not men who want a woman that is waiting for marriage to have sex? I have been walked out on by so many first dates because I say this. I feel this is the sign of the times, end times. It makes me so sad. Sad for God too. I call them ‘fluffy Christians’. Men step up to the plate! Obedience seems to be left out of this equation. There is no fear of God. It’s self. I hope and pray that men start getting on their knees. Lord, please, please speak to their hearts. Many can’t even tell me what the Gospel message is. Yet they go to church every Sunday…….


    1. Well, I’m in my mid-thirties and still a virgin, and I have MUCH higher requirements about things like economic policy, social policy, military policy, and especially apologetics. Honestly, I feel for you about the chastity. If God had not helped me by making me a different skin color and from a different culture, then I would probably not be a virgin now. Not fitting in was difficult, but in retrospect it’s been a blessing because it allowed me to be chaste. I love chastity!


  8. I was wondering if you singles are trusting and believing that God is able to bring your future spouses in His perfect timing regardless of the world we live in today? Thanks.


    1. Waiting on Him is the only way to go.

      Abraham sent Elizer to find a son for Isaac and she met his requirements by giving him water and watering ALL 10 camels (Gen 24)


    2. I think this is a really wrong-headed idea and causes a lot of divorces. When people are lazy and don’t study to make a good decision about what marriage is about, how to prepare for marriage, and how to evaluate people systematically for marriage, that’s when the disasters occur. The world is filled with failed marriages by people who put less time into choosing a spouse than the do into choosing a house. And children suffer the most for it.


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